Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.
It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. Living in conflict or within a toxic relationship is more damaging than being alone.
Family and childhood
- Childhood circumstances such as poor attachment, neglect, abuse, lack of quality stimulation, conflict and family breakdown can negatively affect future social behaviour, educational outcomes, employment status and mental and physical health.399 Conversely, children and young people who have good personal and social relationships with family and friends have higher levels of wellbeing.1,2
- A 2015 survey of children attending child and adolescent mental health services found that family relationship problems were the single biggest presenting problem.3
- Preventative interventions with parents that focus on their relationship as a couple can help to enhance children’s wellbeing and reduce emotional and behavioural difficulties.4,5
- Being happily married or in a stable relationship impacts positively on mental health. Research has found that high marital quality is associated with lower stress and less depression. However, single people have better mental health outcomes than people who are unhappily married.6
- Recent studies from Ireland and the USA have found that negative social interactions and relationships, especially with partners/spouses, increase the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, while positive interactions reduce the risk of these issues.7,8
- People in neighbourhoods with higher levels of social cohesion experience lower rates of mental health problems than those in neighbourhoods with lower cohesion, independent of how deprived or affluent a neighbourhood is.9
- Neighbourhood social cohesion was associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms in older people.10
Bell, R., Donkin, A., & Marmot, M. (2013). Tackling Structural and Social Issues to Reduce Inequalities in Children’s Outcome in Low and Middle Income Countries. Retrieved from instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/unicef-tackling-inequities-in-childrens-outcomes/fullreport-tackling-structural-and-social-issues-to-reduceinequities-in-childrens-outcomes-in-low-to-middleincome-countries.pdf [Accessed 26/08/16].
NatCen Social Research. (2013). Predicting wellbeing. London: NatCen Social Research. Retrieved from natcen.ac.uk/media/205352/predictors-of-wellbeing.pdf [Accessed 18/02/16].
Wolpert, M., & Martin, P. (2015). THRIVE and PbR: Emerging thinking on a new organisational and payment system for CAMHS. New Savoy Partnership Conference, London, 11/02/15.
Cowan, P.A., & Cowan, C.P. (2002). Interventions as tests of family systems theories: Marital and family relationships in children’s development and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 731–759
Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Pruett, M., Pruett, K., & Wong, J.J. (2009). Promoting fathers’ engagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(3), 663–679.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W., & Jones, B.Q. (2008). Is There Something Unique about Marriage? The Relative Impact of Marital Status, Relationship Quality, and Network Social Support on Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Mental Health. Annals of Behavioural Medicine, 35, 239–244.
Teo, A.R., Choi, H.J., & Valenstein, M. (2013). Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLOS One, 8(4). Retrieved from journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062396 [Accessed 26/08/16].
Santini, Z.I., Koyanagi, A., Tyrovolas, S., & Haro, J.M. (2015). The association of relationship quality and social networks with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among older married adults: Findings from a cross-sectional analysis of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). Journal of Affective Disorders, 179, 134–141.
Fone, D., White, J., Farewell, D., Kelly, M., John, G., Lloyd, K., … & Dunstan, F. (2014). Effect of neighbourhood deprivation and social cohesion on mental health inequality: A multilevel population-based longitudinal study. Psychological Medicine, 44(11), 2449–2460.
Stafford, M., McMunn, A., & de Vogli, R. (2011). Neighbourhood social environment and depressive symptoms in mid-life and beyond. Ageing and Society, 31, 893–910.